From Baird to Breakthrough
Seven seniors are chosen to enrich sustainability on campus
by Carson Koser '15
January 24, 2013
The senior Baird Fellows program participants will be deeply engaged with guest speakers and the campus community this semester. Top, from left: Taylor Wilmot, Sarah Ganong, J.J. Luceno and Emily Eckardt. Bottom, from left: Giovania Tiarachristie, David Dean and Courtney Blinkhorn.
As a Dickinson student you are challenged to get outside your comfort zone and participate in an interdisciplinary course of study. This year, a new program honors seniors who have done just that during their Dickinson career.
The Baird Fellows Program, launched by the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE), is "designed to bring together student leaders who have helped forward sustainability at Dickinson," says Lindsey Lyons, assistant director of CSE. "The intent is to create an interdisciplinary forum for discussion and collaboration."
The program is named after notable alumnus Spencer Fullerton Baird, class of 1840, who introduced field studies to American education and helped found the Smithsonian Institution. Seven students were selected as candidates for the 2013 fellowship and will participate in the Baird Honors Colloquium focusing on the spring Clarke Forum series, Living in a World of Limits.
The series features guest speakers such as Bill McKibben, prominent author and environmentalist. McKibben received The Sam Rose '58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism last May, and on April 11, he will speak about his work related to institutional-endowment divestment from fossil-fuel companies. On March 27, David Orr of Oberlin College will discuss The Oberlin Project, a college and regional economic-development initiative.
Students in the colloquium will work closely with the guest speakers, faculty and each other, sharing ideas about how to create a more sustainable world. Each student will create a portfolio of their work and reflections, which they will present at the end of the semester in a public forum. A faculty panel will review their work, and those who have achieved a high standard of excellence will be named Baird Sustainability Fellows at Commencement.
The inaugural class includes students with majors as varied as environmental science, political science, English, Spanish and sociology. All applied to the program seeking to grow in their own sustainability efforts and to find ways to challenge the status quo. Emily Eckardt '13, one of the selected candidates and a women's & gender studies major, is excited to begin helping to broaden the scope of sustainability initiatives across campus.
Eckardt has been studying the practice of social sustainability and hopes to continue that through the fellows program. "I believe that [the social issues are] crucial to incorporate into discussions of environmental sustainability, because those most marginalized suffer more heavily when our resources are overused," she says. "Therefore, sustainability must become a more accessible movement."
While all the students believe there is a lot of work to be done to capture general student interest, there is a definite air of anticipation about the possibilities this fellowship brings. "I'm most excited about being a part of this group because it means I get to work with some incredibly bright students, faculty and speakers who have all had different experiences with sustainability," Eckardt adds.
The students will have the chance to provide leadership for the community, especially once the speakers arrive on campus. "The students can use their varying academic and social networks to encourage students to engage in this speaker series," says Lyons.
The first speaker, Michael Shellenberger, is president of The Breakthrough Institute, and co-author of Breakthrough, which launched a national debate about the limits of the environmental movement. Shellenberger, who will speak on Jan. 29, will discuss why technology is the key to dealing with the world's most difficult environmental issues—from climate change to species extinction.
Others also hope to challenge some of the conventional wisdom about sustainability and make the conversation more inclusive. "I applied [to the program] to be in a space and take part in that critical dialogue on the crisis of the movement and to challenge my own paradigm of sustainability," says Giovania Tiarachristie '13. "But that space should be Dickinson as a whole, because everyone needs to be part of that dialogue and be open to challenges."